Q&A with Rick Waits

Rick Waits, the Mets Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with InsidePitchMagazine.com for a Q&A session. Find out his early impressions of Brad Holt, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee. What steps do Jenrry Mejia and Michael Antonini need to take? Find out those answers and more.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: Many people want to know how Brad Holt is coming along. What did you think about his Spring Training and how do you see his secondary pitches coming along?

Rick Waits: First off, he had a great spring in his first Spring Training. I think he learned a lot about what he needed to do over the winter time to get ready for camp. It's a tough thing sometimes for young guys to understand exactly what it takes to get through camp healthy and ready to go and ready to pitch.

His secondary stuff is coming along great. He's got a plus curveball and right now he's throwing a plus changeup. He also understands the value and importance of the changeup. He's throwing real well right now. We're very happy with his progress.

Inside Pitch: Dillon Gee garnered a lot of attention during Spring Training. He got valuable time in big league camp and is in Triple-A very quickly. What has helped him move up the ladder?

Waits: I think he's right on track. They've all had a tough start in Buffalo, but he is a real smart pitcher who has pitched better than his record. The one thing with him is that he's figured everything out already. I think he just needs to get back to his foundations of commanding the strike zone down and away to a righty. He has worked on that in his last couple of bullpens and I think he's right back on track. He pitches tomorrow night and I expect a real good game out of him.

Inside Pitch: Jonathon Niese's proximity to pitching in New York comes with some expectations and his development is well noted, but how do you see him adapting to those expectations and what does he need to do to get over that last hurdle?

Waits: I think just like any young guy, he needs as many innings as he can get before he settles into that Major League job. The more innings he gets now the better and I think he knows exactly what it takes to get there and it's just a matter of doing it on a daily basis.

I think early in the year here he got a little bit away from what he does well. He's got his great curveball that has been working very well for him, but he's got away from his fastball down and away and using his cutter. He's gotten away from the two little things that will be big for him, specifically pitching down and away and using that cutter. I was just with him for four or five days and he's well aware of that. The main thing for any pitcher is to always stay with what you do best. I think here early in the year, he just got away from that.

Inside Pitch: I spoke with Brant Rustich and he informed me that he's been pitching with a bit of an arm injury? Can you confirm that? He is off to a very strong start, so how would you rate the effectiveness of his pitching?

Waits: Well right now, there's nothing wrong with his arm and he's given up only a couple of runs this year. He went five innings and threw 80 pitches in his last start and was really terrific. I think he's right on target of coming out of Spring Training and not putting too much volume on his arm yet. To me, he's ready to kind of let go and be a starter. He's been a starter all along just in a piggyback role. Last night, he was terrific. He had all three pitches going—the fastball, slider and changeup. They were all effective and he was throwing hard. Again, he went five innings which was real crucial. I don't think Rustich is as far away as we think he is and he's right on target for me. Here in the month of April, I just continue to keep pushing his knowledge and understanding of the game while keeping him healthy. I think we've really got something in this kid.

Inside Pitch: So was he not pitching with an injury during camp? This is what he has told me.

Waits: To my knowledge, he's had no injury during Spring Training or now. I haven't seen anything. He's had some injuries in college and last year we had to shut him down at the end of the season because his shoulder got tired and sore. We had to spend all of winter rehabbing him and getting him back, so maybe that's what he was referring to in spring that he was coming back from the soreness from late last year. But we haven't seen anything wrong with him this year. He looks great.

Inside Pitch: Another guy in St. Lucie off to a good start is Scott Shaw. He's the kind of pitcher where you know what you're getting from him, but what positives do you see coming from him?

Waits: He had a terrific learning experience in Brooklyn last summer, but he is one of the fastest learners I've ever seen in six months. From the time he signed last year until the time he finished pitching in Hawaii, I've never seen such great games in all areas of his pitches. This guy is really a complete pitcher. He's got the stuff. He's in the 90s, he's got the slider and the changeup. He knows how to pitch and use both sides of the plate. He's one of the smartest pitchers we have, and as I've said before, I really see this kid going places quickly because of his knowledge of the game and how smart he is on the mound.

Inside Pitch: Michael Antonini is another guy who is moving quickly. He saw time in big league camp and his stuff is coming along. His breaking ball is that pivotal pitch for his success, but what positives do you continue to see from Antonini?

Waits: He's ahead of his time. Here is a guy that in his second full season as a pitcher was in big league camp, was in Double-A and could probably pitch in Triple-A and, who knows, could possibly spot start in the big leagues. I think we have a few guys like that, but the thing with Antonini is that he's got a real good fastball and changeup with good command of both. His breaking ball is the pitch that needed improvement from when he first signed and I think last year it really improved.

Now, he's taken it a step further as he worked with [Mets pitching coach] Dan Warthen and [Mets bullpen coach] Randy Niemann to get that breaking ball much sharper and a little tighter. That has come along great. I got to watch him pitch about 10 days ago in Binghamton. He had a very good outing though he was a little erratic with his fastball, his breaking ball was very good. He's coming along very well and we don't need to rush any of these guys. He just needs innings and to keep getting experiences.

Inside Pitch: Another higher level guy is Tobi Stoner who is coming back from injury. How is he coming along?

Waits: I'm actually driving down to Jupiter today to see him pitch, but he's right on the brink of being able to get with a ball club. He may need one more start, but he's at 75 pitches and next outing he'll be at 90 pitches. He's feeling great. He's saying he's feeling the best he's ever felt. I haven't seen him pitch in about 10 days, but I'm really excited to see him out there. I anticipate that here within the next two weeks, Stoner will be ready to go.

Inside Pitch: Finally, one young guy putting it together is Jenrry Mejia. He's very young but is finding his game at a high level for his age. What have you seen from his rapid development?

Waits: What you have to like from Mejia is his power. When I talk about power, yes it's velocity, but more than that he's got a terrific, strong body and whatever velocity he throws in the first inning, he'll throw in the ninth inning. That's what I mean when I talk about power. He's really got three solid, big league pitches that are still in the development stage. They'll get away from him at times with inconsistent innings, but when he's on, he's as good as anyone we have in the organization along with all the guys we've talked about. He's right there with them and he's only 19. I love that he's in St. Lucie right now because that's a challenge he needs. Probably the last step for him, with his great changeup and fastball, is his being more consistent with his curveball. He's got a very good curveball, but now it's a matter of being more consistent with it.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com: Many people want to know how Brad Holt is coming along. What did you think about his Spring Training and how do you see his secondary pitches coming along?
\r\n
\r\nRick Waits: First off, he had a great spring in his first Spring Training. I think he learned a lot about what he needed to do over the winter time to get ready for camp. It's a tough thing sometimes for young guys to understand exactly what it takes to get through camp healthy and ready to go and ready to pitch.
\r\n
\r\nHis secondary stuff is coming along great. He's got a plus curveball and right now he's throwing a plus changeup. He also understands the value and importance of the changeup. He's throwing real well right now. We're very happy with his progress.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Dillon Gee garnered a lot of attention during Spring Training. He got valuable time in big league camp and is in Triple-A very quickly. What has helped him move up the ladder?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think he's right on track. They've all had a tough start in Buffalo, but he is a real smart pitcher who has pitched better than his record. The one thing with him is that he's figured everything out already. I think he just needs to get back to his foundations of commanding the strike zone down and away to a righty. He has worked on that in his last couple of bullpens and I think he's right back on track. He pitches tomorrow night and I expect a real good game out of him.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Jonathon Niese's proximity to pitching in New York comes with some expectations and his development is well noted, but how do you see him adapting to those expectations and what does he need to do to get over that last hurdle?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think just like any young guy, he needs as many innings as he can get before he settles into that Major League job. The more innings he gets now the better and I think he knows exactly what it takes to get there and it's just a matter of doing it on a daily basis.
\r\n
\r\nI think early in the year here he got a little bit away from what he does well. He's got his great curveball that has been working very well for him, but he's got away from his fastball down and away and using his cutter. He's gotten away from the two little things that will be big for him, specifically pitching down and away and using that cutter. I was just with him for four or five days and he's well aware of that. The main thing for any pitcher is to always stay with what you do best. I think here early in the year, he just got away from that.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: I spoke with Brant Rustich and he informed me that he's been pitching with a bit of an arm injury? Can you confirm that? He is off to a very strong start, so how would you rate the effectiveness of his pitching?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: Well right now, there's nothing wrong with his arm and he's given up only a couple of runs this year. He went five innings and threw 80 pitches in his last start and was really terrific. I think he's right on target of coming out of Spring Training and not putting too much volume on his arm yet. To me, he's ready to kind of let go and be a starter. He's been a starter all along just in a piggyback role. Last night, he was terrific. He had all three pitches going—the fastball, slider and changeup. They were all effective and he was throwing hard. Again, he went five innings which was real crucial. I don't think Rustich is as far away as we think he is and he's right on target for me. Here in the month of April, I just continue to keep pushing his knowledge and understanding of the game while keeping him healthy. I think we've really got something in this kid.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: So was he not pitching with an injury during camp? This is what he has told me.
\r\n
\r\nWaits: To my knowledge, he's had no injury during Spring Training or now. I haven't seen anything. He's had some injuries in college and last year we had to shut him down at the end of the season because his shoulder got tired and sore. We had to spend all of winter rehabbing him and getting him back, so maybe that's what he was referring to in spring that he was coming back from the soreness from late last year. But we haven't seen anything wrong with him this year. He looks great.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Another guy in St. Lucie off to a good start is Scott Shaw. He's the kind of pitcher where you know what you're getting from him, but what positives do you see coming from him?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: He had a terrific learning experience in Brooklyn last summer, but he is one of the fastest learners I've ever seen in six months. From the time he signed last year until the time he finished pitching in Hawaii, I've never seen such great games in all areas of his pitches. This guy is really a complete pitcher. He's got the stuff. He's in the 90s, he's got the slider and the changeup. He knows how to pitch and use both sides of the plate. He's one of the smartest pitchers we have, and as I've said before, I really see this kid going places quickly because of his knowledge of the game and how smart he is on the mound.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Michael Antonini is another guy who is moving quickly. He saw time in big league camp and his stuff is coming along. His breaking ball is that pivotal pitch for his success, but what positives do you continue to see from Antonini?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: He's ahead of his time. Here is a guy that in his second full season as a pitcher was in big league camp, was in Double-A and could probably pitch in Triple-A and, who knows, could possibly spot start in the big leagues. I think we have a few guys like that, but the thing with Antonini is that he's got a real good fastball and changeup with good command of both. His breaking ball is the pitch that needed improvement from when he first signed and I think last year it really improved.
\r\n
\r\nNow, he's taken it a step further as he worked with [Mets pitching coach] Dan Warthen and [Mets bullpen coach] Randy Niemann to get that breaking ball much sharper and a little tighter. That has come along great. I got to watch him pitch about 10 days ago in Binghamton. He had a very good outing though he was a little erratic with his fastball, his breaking ball was very good. He's coming along very well and we don't need to rush any of these guys. He just needs innings and to keep getting experiences.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Another higher level guy is Tobi Stoner who is coming back from injury. How is he coming along?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I'm actually driving down to Jupiter today to see him pitch, but he's right on the brink of being able to get with a ball club. He may need one more start, but he's at 75 pitches and next outing he'll be at 90 pitches. He's feeling great. He's saying he's feeling the best he's ever felt. I haven't seen him pitch in about 10 days, but I'm really excited to see him out there. I anticipate that here within the next two weeks, Stoner will be ready to go.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Finally, one young guy putting it together is Jenrry Mejia. He's very young but is finding his game at a high level for his age. What have you seen from his rapid development?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: What you have to like from Mejia is his power. When I talk about power, yes it's velocity, but more than that he's got a terrific, strong body and whatever velocity he throws in the first inning, he'll throw in the ninth inning. That's what I mean when I talk about power. He's really got three solid, big league pitches that are still in the development stage. They'll get away from him at times with inconsistent innings, but when he's on, he's as good as anyone we have in the organization along with all the guys we've talked about. He's right there with them and he's only 19. I love that he's in St. Lucie right now because that's a challenge he needs. Probably the last step for him, with his great changeup and fastball, is his being more consistent with his curveball. He's got a very good curveball, but now it's a matter of being more consistent with it.
\r\n
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